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The Folding Star

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  1,248 ratings  ·  87 reviews
The 1995 Booker Prize finalist finally back in print.

Alan Hollinghurst's hypnotic and exquisitely written novel tells the story of Edward Manners, a disaffected 33-year-old who leaves England to earn his living as a language tutor in a Flemish city. Almost immediately he falls in love with one of his pupils, but can only console himself with other, illicit affairs. With th
Paperback, 432 pages
Published October 3rd 2005 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 1994)
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Maurice by E.M. ForsterBrokeback Mountain by Annie ProulxThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeGiovanni's Room by James BaldwinTales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Best Gay Fiction
176th out of 1,138 books — 1,459 voters
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Non-Winners of the Man Booker
118th out of 198 books — 152 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,915)
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With this, Alan Hollinghurst becomes my favorite living novelist. For me the phrase means a feeling of excitement about what someone will write in the future, what new domains of experience they’ll claim. Martin Amis and Edmund White do not evoke this feeling any longer, though I love them; Updike did, if in his last decade only journalistically. I enjoyed Updike’s testimony as a still-acute American elder, his comments on epoch-defining public events—-9/11, the historic election of an African-A ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
I was reassured by the fact that this book landed on the Carmen Callil and Colm Toibin Modern Library list of Best Novels in English from 1950-1998. To see the complete list click on the link:

It is an unusual list. There are a lot of books on the list that I hadn't read and more than I thought possible that I haven't even heard of. To say the least it is an intriguing list. I really enjoyed Colm Toibin's novel about Henry James called The Master and so I
Alan Hollinghurst writes sublimely. I have gushed about his prose in my reviews of all his novels, and this one was no exception. It is also the last of his novels that I read (so Alan, please be writing a new novel, preferably one that is thematically along the lines of The Stranger’s Child).

In this novel, we meet Edward Manners (a name akin to Nick Guest from The Line of Beauty), who is an Englishman abroad, a tutor to two young men in a Flemish town, one of whom he falls hopelessly in love
Andrew Schirmer
If ever I am asked to name a writer of supreme talent working today, I can always fall back on Alan Hollinghurst. While there are weaknesses in the early books—a penchant for narcissistic, sex-obsessed protagonists, a glaring lack of developed female characters—these can be explained away as being part of the territory. Hollinghurst writes whereof he knows, and there is so much more in his books. Accusing him of retreading the same ground—boys, books, & buggery—is like accusing Proust of bei ...more
Rob Walter
It's always the same with Alan Hollinghurst: attractive young man is fancied by less attractive gay man, agony and beauty ensue. What a great format - if you're a less attractive gay man. God only knows why straight people might read this.

Well written, though, and perfectly paced.
Feb 02, 2010 Sarah rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lovers of "While England Slept"
Well, I just wrote a scathing review of this book that was lost.


Hated the narrator
Hated the sub plot about the Belgian artist
Hated the object of the narrator's affection
Hated that every man in the book, no matter how odd, turned out to be into having gay sex in the woods with anyone who walked by.
Hated that every woman in teh book was either in love with a gay man, stealing straight men from gay men or only around to nurse the gay men as they die from AIDS.

I loved Line of Beau
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alex Sarll
The majority of this book is a combined homage to Bruges-la-Morte and Death in Venice, and didn't especially grab me precisely because it was so much in their shadow - though as ever with Hollinghurst it is enlivened by some marvelous descriptions of cocks, at once literary, filthy and instantly evocative of the members in question. But the middle section, in which the protagonist returns to the small southern town where he grew up for the funeral of his first love, is astonishing - a perfect pi ...more
Nov 22, 2014 Kernos rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of fine fiction, words, and Gay life in the '80s
Hollinghurst is a joy to read. His prose is lyrical, learned, 'literary'—superlatives fail me. It's worth reading aloud. And, he manages this without muddling meaning, remaining eloquent. His 2nd novel, The Folding Star fulfills his promise. He is certainly a favorite author. I read him with All of Wiki and OED iOS apps which adds to the enjoyment.

This novel is about a 30 something Englishmen obsessing and lusting about his 17 y/o Belgian student he's teaching English. I was constantly thinling
Christopher Barnes
Okay, I just re-read The Folding Star after coming across a review that interpreted the ending entirely differently than I did. Can anyone share with me what they thought happened to Luc?
All right. I love Hollinghurst as I love my friends. That is, in a complicated way that indulges his very strong personality. I made it to page 32 before my characteristic "Alan, you pretentious fucker!" guffaw. Still -- a kindred spirit. A gay intellectual, caught between the unconsidered joys that our people are born with by dint of what's in our trousers & a very careful ironic philosophy (satire, observation, thoughtful morality) inherited from our forequeens. How much is an idealized tr ...more
Michael Flick
Dreary mash-up of Racine ("Andromaque"), Proust ("In Search of Lost Time"), Mann ("Death in Venice"), and Nabokov ("Lolita"). Unlike Racine, there's no tragedy here because there's no possibility of a fall from the gutter. Reads as if it were a tale told at the beginning of the 20th century rather than the end, arcane and stilted. It's masturbatory: the narrator never considers anything but his own wants, needs, and pleasures. He's about as deep as dew. Disappointing and tiresome.
Beautiful. The book jacket suggests this novel could be read as a "homosexual Lolita," and that's exactly what I thought when I finished. This was brilliant. To me, Hollinghurst is one of the best contemporary writers. His writing is so intricate, his stories so layered, and his characters so complex.

I love that he writes things like this:

"Behind them the silhouettes of pines and poplars were reflected and the sunset opened canyons of pink and ultramarine in the pond's muddy depths" (247).

I spent a month with this book. I loved it.
Brian Calandra
The story of a pronouncedly gay man who spends the majority of his time having sex, thinking about sex, wanting sex, and specifically wanting sex with one specific individual with whom he falls in love almost instantaneously. Homosexuality almost takes over the entire book, with multiple ostensibly heterosexual characters revealing homosexual tendencies or histories and attempting to have sex with the narrator. The book wants to be about the all-consuming nature of sexual desire, expressed throu ...more
Josephine Myles
Very hard to decide how to rate this novel - there were moments of intense frustration when I wanted to give up on it because Hollinghurst got so bogged down in details that didn't seem to further the plot (the history of Edgar Orst, for instance), then there would be a passage of such transcendent brilliance that I just had to give it another chance.

Parts of it were wonderful, particularly those focusing on Edward's obsessive behaviour, and the ending, while unresolved, offered up some startlin
Ugh guys, this book!! I don't know what to think!

On one hand, I absolutely adored it (the language was so beautiful, holy shit) but then there was stuff that bothered me. Parts of the story were brilliant and the ending was really good. I actually liked most characters in the book (for once).

The major thing of bother was the fact that a 33 year old TEACHER had a crush on his 17 year old pupil. I know student/teacher relationships are quite popular but they've always creeped me out (Luc is a chil
Dazzling, funny, stylish, sexy, unputdownable, heart-breaking, unforgettable. Alan Hollinghurst is the greatest writer alive. Wikipedia says 'The New York Review of Books described it thus: "You could read this novel as a miniature Remembrance of Things Past. Or as an expanded Death in Venice... or as a homosexual Lolita.... It is an immense pleasure to read, [filled with] funniness and poetry, handled with amazing sensitivity and accuracy." Peter Kemp, Times Literary Supplement critic, said, "E ...more
It is impossible to review this novel without at least some comparison to Alan Hollinghurst's other novels. Since I'm going to do that anyway, I will state that this is in my opinion the best written and most memorable of his novels so far.

The Folding Star scores low ratings in reviews for two things: its flawed characters and its divergence from the main plotline. Both factors are characteristics of Hollinghurst's writing.

I scored the novel highly because of the characters. With today's self-
I'm not normally giving to skim-reading, but this tedious, incoherent, and over-long novel forced me into it. The tale of an English teacher’s obsession w/17-yo student, _The Folding Star_ is nasty-minded and small; a real waste of time & major disappointment from an author who knows better.
Edward Manners takes up his position as private tutor in English to a couple of boys in Flanders. One boy, Marcel, the son of an expert in the fictitious painter Orst, the other the enchantingly beautiful seventeen year oldLuc, son of a parents now separated. Manners, who is in his early thirties, tells of his time in the Flemish city, and along the way fills in much about his own background and friends, including his early sexual exploits with boys at school and on the common.

Marcel's father ta
Elaine Thompson
Not the best Hollinghurst I have read. Was uncomfortable with the stalking, voyeuristic and underage aspects of the plot.

On the other hand, Hollinghurst has, in the 4 books I have read by him, always spent time musing on school boy sex.
Nick Stagliano
If the second part of this book had continued as slowly and boringly as the first part, the rating would have been even lower. For much of it, I felt as if I was slogging through only to get to the end -- a feeling similar to the one I felt during much of The Line of Beauty. Both, though, made it worth it to read to the end, although SPOILER ALERT I found that Hollinghurst's dismissal of the character of Luc from The Folding Star so abruptly and somewhat mysteriously and also somewhat pointlessl ...more
Matt Frear
In my opinion, Hollinghurst's best book - although they are all great!
Alan Hollinghurst is the master of the gay novel, arguably without parallel on either side of the Atlantic. Only Felice Picano comes close, in my estimation, and the latter's work has been sporadic, focusing increasingly on suspense stories.

By contrast, Hollinghurst remains true to a special, even rarified world of angst-ridden, educated gay men in England and on the continent, who strive for love and relationships while liberally helping themselves to any (and apparently all) available sexual
Jessica Gaskin
This book had its moments. At times the language is beautiful and the imagery is very provoking, so much so that I found myself lost in it for a few chunks at a time. Unfortunately the overriding feeling for me coming out of this book was 'clunky'. As I have already said, some sections were very well done, but these were spread out within huge chunks of text that just didn't do anything for me. I am a fan of a wide variety of books; those that are all gripping plot without much depth; those that ...more
“The Folding Star” Alan Hollinghurst. 5/10/12

Boy, am I enchanted with the elusive Mr. Hollinghurst. Although “The Folding Star” is definitely weaker and less “literary” than the rest (“Swimming-Pool Library,” “The Line of Beauty”), it still has that tight and elegant mechanical heart which impels the modern reader to want to sit down to read it, badly (I myself had to actively hunt the book down: I got the original US first edition for 99 cents on Ebay). Yes, this is the least best in his enviab
Several years ago, I happened to pick up a paperback copy of Alan Hollinghurst's Swimming Pool Libraries at a used book store. It is deeply (mostly homo-) erotic and funny and an overall great read. Years later I passed it on to a couple of friends who enjoyed it as much as I did. My naughty book club was born. At the time I was taking a class on the pornographic mind (don't ask), and had to read a horrible Lesbian pulp 'erotic' novel that I can't even remember the name of.... street dyke or som ...more
I read reviews on this story that found the main character disturbing and the story overly dark. Alan Hollinghurst has always captivated me with his stories; his writing reminds me of many classics. His characters are complex and often self-destructive, which can be difficult to read. I did like the main character in this story, I felt for the depth of his obsession and disappointment at not attaining the affection he sought. However, as much I liked this novel, it is not one with a happy ending ...more
The meticulous writing initially is stunning as the central character, Edward Manners has just come to a small Flemish town for the first time and begins his stay there as an English tutor by exploring and describing the place. But I found this wearisome as Hollinghurst takes many side trips along the way which dilutes the central theme. As a result I confess I skipped some of the central part which was extraneous and took it up again to find what was the dénouement which I found unpleasant and ...more
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  • The Married Man
  • The Beauty of Men
  • The Story of the Night
  • Everything You Need
  • Love's Work: A Reckoning with Life
  • Dining on Stones
  • Hallucinating Foucault
  • Forever a Stranger and Other Stories
  • Land
  • The Talk Of The Town
  • While England Sleeps
  • A Disaffection
  • All Souls' Day
  • The Carnivorous Lamb
  • Adjunct: An Undigest
  • Martin and John
  • The Public Image
Alan Hollinghurst is an English novelist, and winner of the 2004 Booker Prize for The Line of Beauty.

He read English at Magdalen College, Oxford graduating in 1975; and subsequently took the further degree of Master of Literature (1979). While at Oxford he shared a house with Andrew Motion, and was awarded the Newdigate Prize for poetry in 1974, the year before Motion.

In the late 1970s he became a
More about Alan Hollinghurst...
The Line of Beauty The Stranger's Child The Swimming-Pool Library The Spell Poems

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